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Status Update – December 2012

We’re not promising this, but it looks like we’ll be signing a lease and opening our makerspace in a few weeks. Many volunteers have helped get us to this point. But even so, we’re struggling to get some critical tasks done and the problem is about to get much worse.

We will soon have to quickly create the policies and procedures we’ll need to run our makerspace, organize and schedule classes, figure out where to put everything, build workbenches, tune-up tools and equipment, and much more.

Many of these things we’ll have to do only once. But we’re still going to have a continual need for more help than we’ve ever had and our makerspace will almost certainly fail if we don’t get it. I’ve been involved with many volunteer-run organizations and I’ve seen it happen.

What help do we need?

  • We need a treasurer and a secretary. These are officer positions. If you want to make a difference or have a strong say in how the makerspace is run, then volunteering for one of these two jobs will guarantee it.
  • Volunteers to manage and promote each major area of interest: woodworking, art, machining, welding, metal fabrication, kids programs, sewing, 3D printing, crafts, computers & electronics, and others. You’ll decide (hopeful with input from others), how to organize and run your work area, help choose equipment to buy or lease, safety and training procedures, and more. (BTW, we need to come up with a good title to give these volunteers.)
  • We’re going to need many work benches and tables. We’d like to build most of them ourselves from wood or welded steel because we think it will save us money and be a good opportunity for our members to learn new skills. And mostly importantly, because it will encourage teamwork and help us build a strong community. So we need volunteers to find good affordable designs and lead construction teams.
  • Volunteers to take charge of our marketing and fundraising efforts.
  • Volunteers to plan and promote our grand opening.
  • People with good writing skills who are willing to help create content for our web site, write training and safety materials, respond to letters and emails, apply for grants, be proofreaders, etc.
  • We need someone to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy a SawStop table saw for our woodworking shop, which will stop instantly if someone’s fingers touch the blade.
  • Leaders who can come up with group projects that will attract interest and help from both members and nonmembers. They can be anything, but we would like to have some that will use our talents and tools to benefit or enrich the Rochester community.
  • Finally, our greatest need is for people who are willing to try and do whatever needs to be done, even if they don’t know how to. Starting a business, or in our case a nonprofit, requires learning and doing a variety of things you’ve never done before.

In case I haven’t been clear enough, WE REALLY NEED MORE HELP RIGHT NOW! So please don’t hesitate to give me a call or send us an email if you willing to help in some way. And as always, we want to hear your input or suggestions about anything.

A surprise, private work areas & what a membership will cost

A large group of us recently looked at the 2,800 square foot space at 850 St. Paul Street I recently told you about. I think everybody liked it. I thought we had an easy decision to make but then we got a big surprise.

The landlord knows I’ve been worried about quickly outgrowing the space so he offered to put us in an 18,000 square foot space and just charge us for the amount of space we actually use. His generous offer will allow us to grow as quickly as we can, without having to worry about starting out in a space that might be much too small, or too big and unaffordable.

Private Work Areas

The extra space means we’ll be able to support more tools, activities and members. But there’s another reason why we’ve been worried about having enough space. We want to have enough room to be able to offer our members private work and storage areas at a low cost and without a long commitment. (Don’t worry, there will also be plenty of free workspace.)

We want to do so because we think there’s a strong need for it and it will benefit many in the Rochester community. We’ve already received inquires from people asking if they can rent space inside our makerspace. And we know that other makerspaces have had a strong demand for similar space.

Artisan’s Aslyum is a good example. They have 90 private spaces ranging in size from 25 to 250 square feet that are fully rented and have a waiting list. The extra revenue from those spaces has made financially stable and it has helped pay for some very impressive tools and programs. So we want to find out if their model will also work here in Rochester.

Membership Cost

To rent a space you’ll need to be a member and we haven’t talked much about how much that will cost. We’re not sure yet, but a monthly membership will probably be $65 and we may offer a very substantial discount to those who are willing to take a chance on us and pay for a year’s membership in advance. We may not do it right away but we’ve also considering daily, student, and family memberships, along with scholarships.

Getting back to private work areas, the huge space we’ve been offered comes with many details that haven’t been worked out yet and maybe some problems. For example, it’s a great space but it’s nowhere near as bright and inviting as the smaller one. So we would really like to know how much interest there is in private work areas before we accept the landlord offer. And unfortunately, we can’t tell you a lot of details yet. Even basic information like how much it’s going to cost. Although, I can tell you that we will keep the cost as affordable as possible.

A Decision Will Be Made Soon

Although it may seem like it, renting space at 850 St. Paul is not a done deal. The building and spaces are great, it’s centrally located and easy to get to from 490, we really like the landlord, and the rent is extremely affordable. And the neighborhood is not bad, although it’s not a great one either.

But we learned at TEDxRochester about some other locations that need to be considered and a commercial real estate agent began helping us for free. So our already very overloaded group of volunteers is responsibly looking at other possibilities. But we are not going to keep looking indefinitely and we are probably going to choose a space to rent within the next couple of weeks. We’d really like to get your input before we do that. So there will probably be a meeting and you can always contact us or leave a comment.

Come see the space we may rent at 850 St. Paul Street

Sorry, I know this is short notice, but we want to invite everyone to join us at 5:15 PM tomorrow (Thursday, November 8th), at a space that we may rent. It’s 2,800 square feet in a huge old factory building that is being renovated at 850 St. Paul Street. It’s at the corner of Scrantom Street, about a half-mile north of the Genesee Brewery, and about a mile from the inner loop and easy access to Rt. 490 east and west.

If you come, please drive down Scrantom Street to the rear parking lot and meet us near the loading docks. Call 585.210.0075 if you have any problems finding the building or us.

The space is being completely renovated. It will be clean, bright and inviting. There will be new bathrooms just outside our door and the landlord has agreed to install a key card system for the main outside door and our space.

The building has a large parking lot and the entire property is surrounded by a fence with an electrically operated gate that is usually closed after 6 PM. You’ll be able to drive up to it in your car and enter an access code to open it or you can buy an inexpensive remote control for it.

We like this building because the rent is very affordable and it includes heat. There is also room in the building where can expand if we grow, and we expect to grow rapidly. We’ve also been offered reasonable terms that will allow us to break our lease if we need to.

This location and space is the best one we’ve been able to find so far in our price range. There is a high probability that we may rent it. So, now is the time to speak up if you have any objections or concerns.

On Monday, at TEDxRochester, we learned about other properties that may meet our needs. And some people even offered to help us find a space to rent. We’re going to follow up on those leads and take advantage of the help. But we’re not going to keep looking indefinitely. Our goal last May was to open a Makerspace by the end of the year and we’re going to try and keep to that time table.

We’ve been invited to TEDxRochester

We’ve been honored with an invitation to set up a display about the Rochester Makerspace at this year’s TEDxRochester, which will be held at the Geva Theater on Monday, November 5th.

You may have heard about TED which is about “Ideas worth spreading.” TEDxRochester is a local annual event that “showcases speakers from in and around Rochester, with ideas or missions that are worth sharing, spreading and growing; ideas that could or do impact Rochester and her citizens.” Tickets for it are so much in demand that to get one you have to fill out an application and hope they choose you.

We’re still new and almost no one in Rochester knows our name or what a makerspace is. This event is an enormous opportunity for us to change that. But to do so we’ll need to work hard to create the best display we can in just three weeks.

If you’re willing to help us then please sign up for our Google “Volunteer Discussion” group, which will make it easier for us communicate.

We’ve already started work and one of the things we need is information about our supporters, their interests and projects that we put into a photo essay / PowerPoint presentation.  So please send us a short introduction and photos or videos.

Thursday’s Meeting and 2 Spaces We Can Rent

Our next informal weekly meeting is going to be this Thursday, October 4th, at the McGregor’s in Penfield at 1129 Empire Blvd. We’re going to meet a little later this time, at 7 PM, and we’re going to have an important discussion about renting one of the two “starter” spaces we just found.

The first is at 250 Cumberland Street, in the old downtown post office. It is being rented by Sean, who restores and customizes motorcycles. He has much more room than he needs and we would be taking over all but about 400 of his 2,000 square foot workshop. In addition to the workspace, we would be able to use (with the proper training or experience) his Bridgeport mill, Rockwell industrial lathe, TIG welder and a foundry capable of pouring 20-pounds of aluminum. It’s a pleasant space with high ceilings and large windows at one end. The cost would be about $500/month plus utilities and insurance.

We would need to reach an agreement with Sean about sharing his space that we all can be happy with, and get the landlord’s OK.

I just learned about a second possibility last Friday. We haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, although I did talk about it with another tenant in the building. It’s 1,700 square feet in the Fedder Industrial Park at 1327 East Main Street, which is near the Hungerford Building and Village Gate. The rent is $540 per month which includes all the utilities. We would have a month-to-month lease which would allow us to quickly move to a larger location if we outgrow it.

There is a problem with it. The building’s outside doors are locked at 4:15 PM each day and the landlord doesn’t want to provide dozens of keys for our members. So we’ll probably only have about 4 keys to work with unless we can talk him into letting us install a keycard system or find another solution.

There was almost no interest or discussion when we suggested renting a space on Industrial Street a couple of months ago. We don’t know if it’s because many of you are unwilling to come downtown, if it’s because you want to leave the decision to just a few of us, or if we’ve badly misjudged the amount of interest and support we have. Quite frankly, we need to see a lot more discussion and support this time or we’re probably going to stop and reevaluate what we’re doing.

If you can’t make Thursday’s meeting then please leave a comment or join our volunteer’s email list. And by the way, we do want to know if you don’t like either location, think we should wait awhile or have other suggestions.

We’re going to need all the help we can get if we do rent one of them because we’re going to have to decide, in a very short time, how we’re going to organize and run our space. We’re also going to have to quickly create a membership agreement, a liability waiver, operating rules and bylaws. And we’ll need to build workbenches and walls, do some painting, and some other chores.

Now’s the time to speak up and pledge your support if want to see a makerspace open soon in Rochester. With your help and support we can open our doors this month.

And one thing. We’re stretched a bit thin right now. Would anyone be willing to get some insurance quotes for us? It can be done over the phone and it probably won’t take long.

Informal Meeting – Thursday 09/27 @ 6 PM

We’re going to have a very informal “burger” meeting this Thursday night at 6 PM.  It will be at Peppermints Family Restaurant, which is located at 4870 West Henrietta Rd.  It’s just south of McDonalds and not far from the Lehigh Station Road exit of Rt 390.

You’ll be able to meet some of the other members of our group and have your questions answered. We’d also like to get your ideas and input on a number of topics, especially about where we should locate our makerspace and how much space we need to get started.

We still have a lot to discuss, decide and do before we can open our doors.  So we’re going to another informal meeting on Thursday, October 4th.  We’re open to suggestions about where to have it and we’re also willing to change the time if 6 PM is not convenient for many of you.

Update – August 2012

I know there’s a lot of questions on where we stand right now in launching our Maker Space. Here’s the update:

Our biggest obstacle right now is publicity. We’re only about 3-½ months old and almost no one knows our name or what a maker space is, but that could change very quickly. College students will be returning to our area soon and we’ll be putting up posters on the various campus’ to generate interest. We’re also trying to come up with other inexpensive and effective ways to publicize ourselves. If you have any ideas then please email or call me.

We were recently mentioned in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper and two other local publications have shown interest in doing stories on us. We’re also steadily getting new subscribers to our email announcement list. There is definitely growing interest and excitement about what we are and what we are planning so we want to be ready to quickly rent a space when we think we have enough prospective members to move forward. So we’ve found a lawyer we like who can quickly form our non-profit corporation and we’ve talked with a CPA and an insurance agency.

We’re also looking at real estate and talking to landlords. We found a space at 17 Industrial Street in Rochester’s up and coming Cascade District that we want to discuss renting temporarily at at our next meeting on September 5th @ 6:30 PM at The Flying Squirrel. If there is strong interest in it from prospective members then we could have our maker space open by October. And if there isn’t then we will at least have a better idea of what we should be looking for. Your input is important and I look forward to hearing your thoughts at the meeting on September 5th.

All great organizations need a great business plan and we are working on ours. One of our problems is that we don’t know how much permanent space we will need. The majority of successful maker spaces (and hackerspaces too) almost always go through huge growth spurts, which requires moving to bigger locations. So we’re trying to come up with realistic cost estimates for running three different size maker spaces: 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of space. Some costs are not easy to estimate (like utilities) so if you, or someone you know, has had experience renting commercial real estate and would be willing to be a mentor, we could certainly use the help.

We’re are also looking at ways to raise startup funds. We have someone willing to help pay the rent for a short time, but we’re going to need a lot more money than that to open our doors and equip our space. So we’re going to try creating a “Founder’s Club.” The first 100 people to donate $100 would get the right to call themselves a Founding Member of the Rochester Maker Space and get their name engraved on a large plaque that will be permanently displayed in our space. Additionally, Founding Members will receive a certificate or perhaps an additional memento to express our appreciation. We are also going to try using KickStarter or other crowd funding sources and we will actively seek donations from businesses, organizations and professionals. Again, please share your thoughts and ideas with us through email or at the upcoming meeting.

As always, we greatly appreciate any help or support you can give us, any suggestions you may have to the topics discussed here, or any additional thoughts that may help us in launching the maker space. If you have any questions always feel free to contact us via the contact page on our website or post a message in our forum.

I look forward to seeing you at the Flying Squirrel at 6:30pm on September 5th.

Thanks!
Rob

Let’s Talk About Renting at 17 Industrial Street

The space we’re considering is currently being used as a storage and work space. You’ll find another photo below showing a empty finished space that is almost identical to the one we’re interested in.

Wyatt and I looked at a 1700 square foot space located in an old factory at 17 Industrial Street that is being completely renovated. The price is very reasonable, we like the landlord and he seems very willing to work with us. We’ve also been looking at other locations and we’re going to continue to look at more. But we think we need, as a group, to seriously consider renting this space.

If there is strong support for it we’ll move forward and see if we can come to an agreement that will allow us to move into it in October. And if there isn’t, then we’ll at least have a better idea of what we need to look for.

This would be just a temporary space. We would not have room to do all the things we would like to. We also wouldn’t have extra space to rent out to members who want a private work area or storage. But we’ll still have lots of room and tools to work with, like the 3D printer we just ordered. We’ll also have a place to have classes and other activities. And maybe most importantly, it will give us instant credibility by proving that we’re not just talking about starting a maker space in Rochester.

The building is in Rochester’s Cascade District and it’s easy to get to. It’s only a couple of minutes from RT 490 no matter what direction you’re coming from. It’s in a neighborhood filled with offices and loft apartments. There is limited off-street parking but on street parking probably won’t be a problem, especially after 4 PM weekdays and on weekends.

The entirely building is being completely renovated. Our space would be on the second floor, reachable by both stairs and an elevator. It’s wide open with a hardwood floor, brick walls and lots of large new windows. There are plenty of electrical outlets, the bathrooms are new, and heating, air conditioning and electric is included. The landlord also seems to be willing to consider providing free rubbish pickup. So our only addition expenses might be just Internet and insurance.

Our next formal meeting is going to be in early September. But many of us have often been meeting for breakfast on Saturday mornings to informally discuss things. I’d like to do that again in the next week or two to discuss this space. Meeting somewhere on a weeknight is also possible if it’s convenient for more people.

I’d also like to set up another meeting with the landlord before then so others can see it before we talk about it.

If you’re interested in seeing it or meeting about it then please leave a comment below or let us know via our contact form.

Continue reading Let’s Talk About Renting at 17 Industrial Street

Status Update – July 2012

We’ve made a lot of progress since our web site went up in early May.

We have a small hardworking group of founders who have been working steadily on promoting the Rochester Maker Space and developing our business plan. We also have an impressive amount of tools to start with and some seed money to work with. So we’ve begun looking for both temporary and permanent locations to rent.

Nearly everyone who is currently involved lives on the east side of the city or in the eastern suburbs. So that’s probably where we’re going to be unless we get a huge donor who influences our decision.

We’re still months away from being able to rent a permanent location but we need to start looking at possible locations to gather cost information for the financial section of our business plan. We also need a better estimate of how many members we’ll start with and how much space we’ll need. We probably won’t have one until at least October, after the college students have returned. Our goal is to open in a permanent location by early next year.

In the meantime we’d like to find a small (1,000 to 1,500 sq. ft.) and inexpensive (~$500/month) temporary space that we can rent within the next two or three months. A temporary location will give us more credibility, help us attract members, and give us a place to work in and hold classes. It’ll also give us an opportunity to start learning on a small-scale how to manage a maker space.

But before we can consider renting any kind of space need to accomplish several things.

  • First, we need to find a lot more potential members. To do that we need to continue publicizing the Rochester Maker Space. We also need to do a better job describing what we’re trying to create, what we’re going to offer, how we can benefit the community and what memberships will probably cost.
  • Second, we need to find more people who are willing to help us with our huge to-do list. This is probably the most difficult challenge facing us. So please contact us if you’re interested. We have very simple things you can do to help, along with some more challenging ones.
  • And third, we need to find a good, affordable and personable lawyer to setup our not-for-profit corporation and advise us in some other ways. We can’t rent a space and buy liability insurance until we do so. Forming a corporation will require us to formalize our management team, prepare bylaws, and raise funds to pay for our legal fees. If we can’t do that, and also prepare a good business plan, then we probably shouldn’t even be trying to start a maker space.

When we first started I thought we would appeal mostly to engineers, geeks, hackers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and other technically oriented “makers” who wanted access to machine tools, welding and metal fabrication equipment, woodworking tools, laser cutters, electronic test gear and 3D printers.

But then we decided we also wanted to make artists and crafters feel welcome. And as a result we’re getting an enormous amount of interest from that part of our community. We’re still not sure what they need in terms of tools but we have learned that access to workspace is very important to them and also all kinds of “makers.”

We’ve also learned that many of the most successful maker spaces have been able to achieve financial stability and create well-equipped community workshops by renting extra space to their members who want it for additional storage, a private work area or even an office area. So we’re looking into doing that also.

We also once thought we could be a completely volunteer run organization. But now we’re not so sure of that. We’re worried that 3 or 4 people (or fewer) will end up doing most of the work and that won’t be sustainable for long.

We still intend to rely mostly on volunteers to hold costs down (expect regular group work sessions to fix machines or sweep floors). But we also think we need to at least consider getting to a point we can afford to hire at least some part-time help.

By the way, we’ve already decided we’re going to pay instructors because we think it will help us attract better ones and make it possible to schedule classes more regularly. But we haven’t decided yet how much to pay them.

So, our business plan is becoming more complicated and we need to spend more time working on it, especially the financial sections. But we’re already pedalling about as fast as we can. So we could really use some help with it.

Please don’t be afraid to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments. And we hope you can make it to our next organizational meeting. It will be at 7 PM on Monday July 23rd at the Webster Library.

Our Next Meeting is on Monday, July 23

The Rochester Maker Space is having another organizational meeting on Monday, July 23rd @ 7 PM

This time we’re going to be meeting in the Webster Library’s meeting room. It’s at 980 Ridge Rd, near the Hard Road exit of RT 104, in the plaza across from Staples and BJ’s).

Come early to socialize and network. There will be refreshments.

 We’re going to discuss

  • Our goals and vision
  • Renting a temporary space
  • Buying a 3D printer
  • Getting more help with our to-do list

Please join us. We need your input and help to launch a non-profit community work space with affordable access to a wide variety of tools and classes. A place where you can meet and collaborate with other talented and creative people.

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